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I had high expectations for these, but the design falls a little short. Background- I've been hiking in the desert South Western US for about the past thirty years, including in Summer. I was also in the US military and have worn my fair share of hot-weather military style boots. I currently am in 100F/39C degree heat and that same desert SW. I've owned various pairs of Italian made hiking/backpacking boots, and generally find them to be the best. My last pair's sole fell off after years of love, so it was time to get a new pair. I've been looking for a pair of hot-weather boots that are hiking/backpacking style and not military style. When I saw the Pilgrims I thought, "hallelujah! Somebody has finally made them!" Well, not so fast...
First, the great: Build quality is impeccable. Materials seem extremely high quality. The sole is fantastic in rough stuff, with or without load, running or just hiking. The ankle support is a good balance of flexible and supportive, again both with load and without. The sole is also the right mix of stiff enough to deal with uneven ground, rocks, etc., but not so stiff as to feel like you're walking on planks (as I've experienced with a few other brands of backpacking shoes.) The outsole grips everything from rock to loomy soil well. The toe-box is ample (albeit a little longer than probably necessary if they would just make it wider).
The not so good: 1) The design sizing/dimensions are that of a standard, cool/cold weather boot. There was no forethought that people would want to use hot weather boots with thin socks. In order to achieve a proper fit, you need to wear thicker hiking socks. Even standard issue military socks would be too thin. I'm going to try thicker insoles to see if that helps. I have a very standard sized foot and never have issues finding comfortable footwear, for what it's worth.
2) The lacing system at the heel is awful. I get that AKU might have been trying to get this boot authorized for the US military or others, but apart from the SOCOM guys that can do whatever they want, you can't have multi-tone boots, so the lacing is a moot point. They should have included metal locking hooks at the heel like every other hiking boot, including the other brown DS "combat" version. The lacing system on these is far inferior to the locking hook system.
The ugly: The "Air 8000" material is barely breathable, if at all. To my feet it feels exactly the same as modern Gore-Tex or eVent. These are HOT. They are nowhere near the performance of a hot weather military boot. Aku should have just gone with some sort of regular nylon fabric. Couple that with having to wear thicker socks, and you might as well just get a pair of waterproof boots.
In breaking them in I did a 4 mile desert hike in 95F degree weather. 300m of elevation gain, 300m of loss with a 25lb (roughly 11.5kg?) pack. It took me 1:02, so pretty good pace. (Hiked up, jogged back down.) I ended up with some blisters on my heels. Not because of the fit, but because of the heat and sweat. These just are not "hot weather" boots.
They are very nice boots, but I don't see them as particularly suited to actual hot weather. If I could purchase again, I would still buy AKU, but just get a regular pair of waterproof hiking boots since the ventilation is the same and I could get a better lacing system.
These are excellent boots, comfortable right out of the box with no hot spots. Traction is great on difficult terrain.
Outstanding customer service. New boots were sent to me well after the normal return timelines when I believed they were defective. This company stands 100% behind their products. Will definitely buy again.
Light and supportive needed zero break in for me.
I’ve got a slightly wider foot and appreciate the roomy toe box.